Love — [like] most of life — is full of patterns: from the number of sexual partners we have in our lifetime to how we choose who to message on an internet dating website.These patterns twist and turn and warp and evolve just as love does, and are all patterns which mathematics is uniquely placed to describe. It is the foundation stone upon which every major scientific and technological achievement of the modern era has been built. In the first chapter, Fry explores the mathematical odds of finding your ideal mate — with far more heartening results than more jaundiced estimations have yielded.From the odds of finding your soul mate to how game theory reveals the best strategy for picking up a stranger in a bar to the equation that explains the conversation patterns of lasting relationships, Fry combines a humanist’s sensitivity to this universal longing with a scientist’s rigor to shed light, with neither sap nor cynicism, on the complex dynamics of romance and the besotting beauty of math itself.She writes in the introduction: Mathematics is ultimately the study of patterns — predicting phenomena from the weather to the growth of cities, revealing everything from the laws of the universe to the behavior of subatomic particles…One in 10 American adults has tried online dating, and nearly 60 percent of Internet users say it is a good way to meet people.Yet some researchers say dating companies' matchmaking algorithms are no better than chance at providing suitable partners.Fry examines what psychologists studying longtime couples have found about the key to successful relationships: Every relationship will have conflict, but most psychologists now agree that the way couples argue can differ substantially, and can work as a useful predictor of longer-term happiness within a couple.In relationships where both partners consider themselves as happy, bad behavior is dismissed as unusual: “He’s under a lot of stress at the moment,” or “No wonder she’s grumpy, she hasn’t had a lot of sleep lately.” Couples in this enviable state will have a deep-seated positive view of their partner, which is only reinforced by any positive behavior: “These flowers are lovely.
In fact, the search for an assistant is the most famous formulation of this theory, and the method is often known as the “secretary problem.” But the most interesting and pause-giving chapter is the final one, which brings modern lucidity to the fairy-tale myth that “happily ever after” ensues unabated after you’ve identified “The One,” stopped your search, and settled down him or her.(Curiously, these equations have also been used to understand what happens between two countries during war — a fact on which Fry remarks that “an arguing couple spiraling into negativity and teetering on the brink of divorce is actually mathematically equivalent to the beginning of a nuclear war.”) Fry presents the elegant formulae the researchers developed for explaining these patterns of human behavior.(Although the symbols stand for “wife” and “husband,” Fry notes that Murray’s models don’t factor in any stereotypes and are thus equally applicable to relationships across all orientations and gender identities.) She breaks down the equations: The researchers then plotted the effects the two partners have on each other — empirical evidence for Leo Buscaglia’s timelessly beautiful notion that love is a “dynamic interaction”: In this version of the graph, the dotted line indicates that the husband is having a positive impact on his wife.And, if you are destined to date an infinite number of partners, you should reject the first 37 percent, giving you just over a one in three chance of success.[…] Say you start dating when you are fifteen years old and would ideally like to settle down by the time you’re forty.